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Choosing a Leash & Collar

There are so many different options on the market today that it can be overwhelming trying to decide which is best for your dog. For as many choices as there are available, there are twice as many opinions about which is the best one. In the end, it comes down to personal preference; both yours and your dog's.


The leash is really more about your comfort than your dog's. If you've taught loose leash walking well, she won't even be aware of the leash. So, it's all about what feels good in your hands. Cotton and hemp leashes are the easiest on your hands. If your dog does pull, they won't give you rope burn. However, they are also the hardest to find! You will probably have to order one off the internet. The most UNcomfortable leash for your hands, especially if your dog pulls, is a chain leash. In the middle is the nylon leash. This is the most common and economical choice. They come in a wide variety of colors to suit your aesthetic taste. Leather leashes are also comfortable for the hands, but a bit pricier than nlyon. The width of the leash is also a factor in comfort. Try them out to see what works best for you. The 1/2" is the most comfortable for most people.

A new option that is becoming popular is the flexi or retractable lead. This is a cable leash that can extend or retract to varying lengths. People like them because they give their dog more freedom while still being confined to a leash. They are great for that purpose, but one note of caution. They are NOT for the untrained dog. The purpose of these leads is to give your dog more freedom. Therefore, you do not have the control over your dog that you do with the other types of leashes. If your dog lunges at other dogs or people on walks, or is enticed by squirrels and other small animals, it will be difficult for you to control him with this lead. It is also very easy for a dog to escape or break this lead. For these reasons, your dog should be very well-trained, especially at loose-leash walking, proper greeting of passersby, and RECALL before walking him with a retractable lead. That is great incentive to work on obedience training with your dog so that he can have more freedom on-leash!


Buckle & Breakaway Collars

Buckle collars work just like a belt, except they go around your dog's neck. Breakaway collars snap together with a clasp, seatbelt style. The only difference between them is the way they close. Buckle collars are more secure, and therefore better suited for walks or traveling. If your dog gets separated from you, the tags on his collar will help him find his way back to you. If you like for your dog to wear a collar at home, the breakaway is a better choice. They are designed to unsnap easily if your dog gets his collar caught on something so that he doesn't strangle himself. Both come in a wide variety of colors, and you can match the leash and collar for a stylish look. Nylon is the most common type, but they also come in cotton, hemp, and leather. If your dog has really long hair, a rolled leather collar is a great option to avoid tangling. These are the only collars recommended for leaving on your dog at all times. All other types should be removed after training or walking.

Proper fit is important for safety and a more pleasant walk. Collars may be loose when just lounging around the house, but they should be high and snug when out for a walk. Place the collar right behind the dog's ears, and tighten it so that you can only fit two fingers underneath. If the collar slips down to the dog's shoulders, it will press on his trachea and potentially collapse it. If it's too loose, he can get out of it and take off. Neither of these are desirable events! This  is also more comfortable for the dog. 

Martingale & Limited Choke Collars

Martingale collars are most commonly seen on Greyhounds and other sighthounds. However, they can be used for any dog. The reason they are more common for sighthounds is that it is easy for these breeds to slip out of their collars due to their slender heads. Martingales only tighten when the dog tries to slip out. more...

Choke Chains

Just say no. The choke chain, used improperly, can collapse your dog's trachea. They are also easy for your dog to get out of. It has to open wide enough to slip on to their head, which means it can open the same way for them to get out of it. There are much better options available. 


Prong Collar

The prong collar looks like a medieval torture device, but it is benign. If you have doubts, try it on yourself first! Used properly, prongs are an excellent tool for controlling a dog who is much larger and more powerful than you are. Prongs are known as "power steering for dogs". They are not for every dog, though. Dogs who are touch sensitive may shut down with a prong collar. This is a tool to consider if you have a dog who is much bigger and stronger than you are until he has obedience training. No collar is a substitute for training your dog. The proper fit and use of the prong is essential. more...

Head Collars

Head halters are heralded by many dog trainers as being more "positive" than snap-around or prong collars. They fit around the dog's nose and work on the same concept as reins for a horse. Used properly, head collars are very effective at controlling an unruly dog on leash without causing any physical discomfort. However, used improperly, these collars can injure your dog. Many dogs resist the head collar because the nose loop feels funny, but they get over it quickly with proper introduction and use. If you have reservations about using snap-around or prong collars, the head collar is a good alternative for a large, strong dog who pulls on leash. However, please have a professional show you how to properly fit and use them first for your dog's safety and comfort.

Electronic Collars

If you are having the kind of behavior problems that you feel warrant the use of an electronic collar, please save your money and hire a dog behaviorist instead. You can make the original problem worse and cause more problems with improper use of an electronic collar. Most people do not understand the proper use of an electronic collar. As with any tool, if you don't know how to use it properly, it's best not to use it at all. There are also studies that suggest that electronic collars harm dogs even when used correctly.


An alternative to collars is the harness. Instead of fitting around your dog's neck, harnesses fit around his chest. A harness is best for dogs who already have trachea or spinal problems. The key is to pick the right one. An improperly fitted harness can still press on the trachea. 

Trivia question: what do you put on a sled dog to make him pull? Answer: a harness! Many harnesses on the market actually encourage your dog to pull, and unless you're in the Iditarod, that's usually not what you want. There are harnesses available now that are designed to discourage pulling. These usually clip in the front of the dog's chest rather than at their back.

The other thing to look out for with harnesses is the ability for your dog to slip out of them. It is much easier for a dog to slip a harness than many of the collars available. Do your homework and choose one that is both escape and pull proof!
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